Al-Khums Verse

Priority: a, Quality: c
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Al-Khums Verse
Verse's Information
NameAl-Khums Verse
SuraQur'an 8
Content Information
Cause of
Disputes over the shares of the spoils
Place of
Aboutobligation of Khums

The Verse of Khums or Āya al-Khums (Arabic: آیة الخُمس) is the verse forty one of the Qur'an 8 (Sura al-Anfal) in which Khums has been made obligatory. Shiite and Sunni Muslims have differently interpreted the term "ghanima" (the spoils of war) in the verse. Shiite jurists appeal to hadiths from Ahl al-Bayt (a) to show that the term encompasses all sorts of incomes, profits, and benefits.

According to the verse, Khums should be divided into six shares which are, according to the majority of Shiite jurists, classified into two general categories: the share of the Imam, and the share of Sayyids. The shares of God, the Prophet (s), and Dhawi l-Qurba (the kinsmen) are given to the Prophet (s), and after him, they are given to the Infallible Imams (a).

Text and Translation of the Verse

Interpretation and the Occasion of Revelation

After the Battle of Badr, several Muslims quarreled over their shares of the spoils. To settle the disputes, God ordered that the spoils be distributed among the warriors by the Prophet (s). And the Prophet (s) gave equal shares of the booties to his warriors.

According to the verse: "And know that whatever thing you gain, a fifth of it is for Allah and the Messenger and the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer, if you believe in Allah and in that which We revealed to Our servant, on the day of distinction, the day on which the two parties met".

Although the verse is addressed to the believers and warriors, it says: "if you believe in Allah [and the Prophet]". Thus, it implies that one's belief is not a matter of a verbal confession; neither is it a matter of presence on the battlefield since one can attend a battle for other mundane purposes. A true believer obeys all divine commands non-selectively, especially the financial ones.

The verse ends with a reminder of God's omnipotence: "and Allah has power over all things".[1]

Key Terms


The words "ghunm" (غُنم) and "al-ghanima" (الغنیمة) are used to mean the gaining of an income through business, industry or war, and since the Verse of Khumas was revealed in the context of war, the phrase, "ma ghanimtum" (what you have gained), means war earnings or booties.[2] According to al-Raghib al-Isfahani, "ghanam" (غَنَم, sheep), has a clear, well-known meaning, but "ghunm" means the gaining of a profit, and it was then used to refer to any incomes earned through wars from one's enemies and the like. In this verse, the word has the latter connotation.[3]

Such a wide usage of "ghunm" and its cognates has occurred in many hadiths. For example, Amir al-Mu'minin 'Ali (a) says in Nahj al-balagha:

  • Sermon 76: "makes good use of" (ightanam) his time.
  • Sermon 120: He who follows them [paths of religion] achieves and "secures" (ghanim).
  • Letter 31: If a person is willing to borrow from you in the days of your affluence to pay it back to you at the time of your need, then "make use of this opportunity" (ightanim).
  • Maxim 331: it is a good "opportunity" (ghanima) given by Allah for the intelligent to perform acts of obedience.

Dhawi l-Qurba

"Dhawi l-Qurba" literally means kinsmen and relatives. However, according to many hadiths in reliable sources of Shiite and Sunni hadiths, "Dhawi l-Qurba" in this verse refers to Ahl al-Bayt (a).[4]


"Yatim" means orphan: a person whose father died when he or she was still immature.[5]


"Miskin" is an exaggerative form of "sukun" (stillness or lack of motion). It refers to a person who has a poor financial condition such that he fails to improve his livelihood because of illness, senility, and physical or financial weakness.[6]

The "orphans", the "poor", and the "wayfarers" in the verse of Khums are restricted to those from Banu Hashim and Sadat, although the verse appears to be unqualified in this respect. The qualification comes from many hadiths from Ahl al-Bayt (a) according to which the verse is restricted to Banu Hashim.[7]

Expenditures of Khums

According to the verse, Khums is divided into six shares which fall into two tripartite categories according to the fatwa of the majority of Shiite jurists:

Views of Exegetes

The most controversial exegetical issue in the verse is the meaning of the word "ghanimtum": is "ghanima" restricted to the booties of wars, or does it generalize to any income?

Views of Shiite Exegetes

Shiite exegetes of the Qur'an appeal to hadiths from Ahl al-Bayt (a) to show that "ghanima" in the verse, as Arabic lexicographers say[9], refers to anything gained, even if it is not the booties of wars with unbelievers. Although the occasion of the revelation of the verse is concerned with booties of wars, it does not threaten the generality of the verse.[10]

Al-Tabrisi, the author of Majma' al-bayan, appeals to the verse and says that Shiite scholars take Khums to be obligatory concerning all gains or profits, be it through transactions and businesses or through treasures and mines or be extracted from the sea by underwater diving.[11] Therefore, Shiite scholars take "ghanima" to have a wide meaning, including any incomes and profits, because the word's literal meaning is general, and there is no clear evidence to restrict it. The mere fact that the verse was revealed in a context of jihad verses cannot restrict the generality of the verse.[12]

Views of Sunni Exegetes

Sunni exegetes of the Qur'an believe that the literal meaning of "ghanima" is general. It includes what is gained in wars or otherwise. In general, it includes anything gained without much effort.

According to al-Qurtubi, "ghanima" literally refers to what is gained with an effort by a person or a group. He claims that there is a consensus among Sunni scholars in this regard. However, "ma ghanimtum" (what you have gained) in the verse refers to possessions gained by people through defeating their enemies in a war. He holds that the qualification does not come from its literal meaning; rather it comes from the common sense and shari'a.[13] Other well-known Sunni exegetes, such as al-Alusi and al-Fakhr al-Razi, share the same view. Therefore, Sunni scholars believe that Khums is restricted to the booties of wars.[14]

See Also


  1. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr nimūnah, vol. 7, p. 172.
  2. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 9, p. 89.
  3. Rāghib Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt fī alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, p. 615.
  4. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, vol. 9, Kitāb al-khums; Ḥaskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, vol. 1, p. 218-221.
  5. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 9, p. 89; Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 124.
  6. Muṣṭafawī, al-Taḥqīq fī kalimāt al-Qurʾān, vol. 5, p. 200.
  7. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shīʿa, vol. 9, Kitāb al-khums; Ḥaskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, vol. 1, p. 218-221.
  8. Ḥillī, Mukhtalaf al-Shīʿa fī aḥkām al-sharīʿa, vol. 3, p. 325.
  9. Rāghib Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt fī alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, p. 615; Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān al-ʿArab, vol. 12, p. 445.
  10. Ṭabāṭabāʾī, al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol. 9, p. 91.
  11. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 4, p. 468.
  12. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr nimūnah, vol. 7, p. 181.
  13. Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qurʾān, vol. 8, p. 1.
  14. Ālūsī, Rūḥ al-maʿānī, vol. 5, p. 200; Fakhr al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 15, p. 484.


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  • Fakhr al-Rāzī, Muḥammad b. ʿUmar. Mafātīḥ al-ghayb. Third edition. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1420 AH.
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